Help Yourself Out, Write it Down
As a millennial in college, I always felt self-conscious about being one of the few students who never took notes on a laptop. Admittedly, my chicken-scratch notes weren’t nearly as pleasing to look at or easy to read like those of my many peers who typed their notes. However, there is a wealth of research showing that putting pen to paper is a good habit to start with a myriad of benefits. (I’m not bragging, but my pen and paper ways MAY have contributed to me graduating with high honors, who knows?)
Here are a few reasons why I’ve kept up this habit post-grad:
1. You’re more likely to remember things you write down
No seriously — there is a ton of research showing that writing aids in retention of important information. Don’t believe me? Scientific American spells it out pretty succinctly in this article. Students who hand write notes are more dialed-in, less distracted, and more likely to do well on tests.
2. It makes you look more professional
My day job involves working in a very technical field, and whenever we have meetings, it’s like college all over again — I’m one of the only people in the room who doesn’t bring their laptop. At first, I thought I was the one making a mistake here. If everyone else had their laptops, clearly I was the one doing something wrong, right?
Then I realized that most of my other colleagues in the room weren’t nearly as tuned-in to the topics covered during the meeting as I was. They were often answering e-mails, checking social media, and otherwise distracted throughout the meeting. I was one of the only ones asking meaningful questions and sending follow-up emails after the meetings were over. At my last performance review, my boss went out of her way to note how professional it is that I don’t bring my work with me to a meeting.
To me, this all seemed like a no-brainer, but it shows that this habit has career benefits as well.
3. A running to-do list means that you won’t forget important tasks
Memory benefits aside, keeping a written, running to-do list in a central notebook (for me, that’s a bullet journal) has helped me keep my life on track for the past three years. I keep everything from grocery lists to the due dates for bills all together in one central location. It’s easy to look at this list, see what I have to do on any given day (and any outstanding projects or tasks that I’ve been procrastinating on) and re-orient my life in order to stay productive and on-task.
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4. Never underestimate the power of a brain dump
I’m naturally an anxious person, with a tendency to overthink anything and everything. I’m also a chronic caffeine addict with no self-control when it comes to the office coffee machine. I’ve spent many a late night, awake in caffeine-induced insomnia, thinking about every little thing I’d like to do with my life, stores I want to check out, books I want to read, and sometimes the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. It’s safe to say all that thinking doesn’t promote restful sleep.
When my brain goes a little haywire (which is sadly somewhat often), I make time to sit down and do a “brain dump.” I cannot emphasize how much this practice has improved my life. There is something seriously cathartic about ending your day knowing that all of your outstanding thoughts are on paper, ready to be dealt with at a time when you have more mental bandwidth available.
5. It’s just plain good for you
The American Psychological Association released an article detailing all of the many health real health benefits that writing can have. Whether you’re like me and your writing increases your productivity, or you simply write for pleasure, there are many proven psychological benefits to writing things down.
Journaling is proven to improve mental health (and many therapists recommend it as a way to get to know yourself better and work through stressors and trauma). According to many studies over the years, people who journal report lower levels of stress, and higher feelings of overall well-being. There’s even research that suggests journaling might contribute to a stronger immune system.
Just Start Writing
No matter what kind of writing you enjoy, it’s a great habit to have. In a world where we’re constantly bombarded by notifications on our phones and computers, taking a bit of a break to detox and write out whatever is on our mind is an important habit that can greatly improve your quality of life.
For me, my bullet journal has been an incredible companion to my mental health and creativity over the past three years. I look forward to my daily reflections, and I know that I have everything I need to keep my life in order all in one place. If you haven’t gotten yourself into a solid writing routine, maybe you should try it out!